“I Promise to pay the bearer…”

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I was reading A Brief History of Banknotes and contemplating that evocative phrase: “I promise to pay the bearer on demand…” It doesn’t mean much these days, but there’s a long, complicated history full of fascinating detail behind the words. And at its simplest level, as you’ll know, it defines the item as a “promissory note” backed only by my faith in the issuing authority.

That is to say, I am the bearer of a promise -an IOU, so-to-speak, authoritatively signed, sealed and guaranteed, which I can drawn upon in my time of need.

And there’s the identical concept in 2 Peter 1.

“He has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1)

We are promise-bearers and those promises that we carry spell the difference between the penthouse luxury of “the divine nature” and the slum dwelling of “corruption… casued by evil desires.

“I promise to pay the bearer on demand” far far more than he can ask or imagine! These promises are notable for their size. We measure the size of a promise by the benefit it gives us. God promises a great deal:

  1. He not only provides for our redemption but for our eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12).
  2. He not only gives us life but the promise of life to the full (John 10:10).
  3.  He not only gives us His joy but joy that is complete (John 15:11).
  4. He not only gives us peace but the promise of perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3).
  5.  He not only promises His forgiveness but He will remember our sins no more (Jeremiah 31:34).
  6. He not only guarantees heaven but He promises heaven with Him (John 14:2-3 and 1 Thessalonians 4:17).
  7. He not only offers us His grace but He promises that it will be sufficient for every need (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Francis Dixon writes: “Someone estimated that Bible contains at least 30,000 promises! Think of the Jehovah titles of the Old Testament, the significance of the rainbow and of the promise that it reminds us of; read Psalm 51 and John 21, which contain the promise of restoration for the backslider; think of Jesus as our Rock, speaking to us of the promise that He will be our security and our shelter; think of the names ascribed to the Lord, such as Friend, Shepherd, Saviour; think of the marriage at Cana, which tells us of God’s provision in times of need; think of the leper who came to Jesus asking for cleansing, telling us of His promise to free us from defilement. Peter says that God’s promises are ”very great and precious.””

But why use the word “precious”?

They are precious because it is God who makes them. My confidence in the Bank of England may falter! But when God makes a promise we can be absolutely sure He will honour His word. We may make a promise to our friends and have every intention of keeping it, yet we may be prevented through no fault of our own. But there are no conceivable circumstances which can prevent God from honouring His word of promise. When God makes a promise it is based upon His sovereignty, His righteousness, His holiness, His justice and His mercy – all of which are involved in His pledged word. When he lay dying, General Booth turned to his son, Bramwell, and three times repeated the words, ”The promises of God are sure“- and so they are!

2 Corinthians 1:20: “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the Amen is spoken by us to the glory of God.”

And these great promises, once claimed, have two opposite effects, that “through them you may participate in the divine nature [on the one hand] having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires [on the other].”

Simply put, when we are saved, we receive a new nature, by which we do not perish with the world.

Human “nature” in the Bible is what makes us “us.” My nature is the sum total of qualities that make me who I am. It is a person’s inherent character and that which constitutes his or her individuality. According to the Bible, every human being is born with Adam’s nature, which has a natural bent toward pleasing self (according to Romans 5:12; 7:14). Our natural selves cannot please God (Romans 8:8). Our sin nature keeps us from fellowship with God, keeps us in bondage to sin, and leads eventually to spiritual death (Romans 6:16, 23; 7:14; 2 Peter 2:19). We cannot free ourselves from sin because we cannot change our natures, just as a tiger cannot change its stripes.

When we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, we are saved (Acts 16:31), and we undergo a radical transformation. We are made new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are born again (John 3:3). We died, and now our lives are “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). We are “in Christ” (Romans 8:1).

As partakers of the divine nature, believers do not have to follow the sin nature any more. At salvation, our old nature is defeated, and we receive a new, divine nature that desires the things of God (2 Corinthians 5:17). We love what He loves and hate what He hates (Galatians 5:22; 1 John 4:4).

As partakers of the divine nature, believers are no longer enslaved to the passions and sins of the flesh (Romans 6:6, 14). We have power from on high to conquer every temptation that comes against us (1 Corinthians 10:13).

As partakers of the divine nature, believers are made part of the family of God (John 1:12), and this results in a changed life. First John 3:9 says, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” By giving us His nature, God makes us His sons and daughters and conforms us to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 6:18).

As partakers of the divine nature, believers have the Holy Spirit indwelling them. God declares that we are “more than conquerors” because of the power of the Holy Spirit within our hearts (Romans 8:37). Our Comforter/Advocate/Counsellor is with us wherever we go (John 14:16). We will never be forsaken (Hebrews 13:5).

And God keeps his promises.

You can bank on it.

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